This week, Members of the National Park Authority agreed to open a consultation on proposals to make the financial savings required to secure future services and practical work across the National Park. Like many organisations and businesses, the National Park Authority has been financially impacted by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a budget deficit of £1.2m for 2021/22.
The Authority’s 200 staff will now have the opportunity to input into the plan and help shape proposals through a 45 day consultation, which currently includes the potential for around 20 redundancies.
Chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, Richard Leafe, said: “While it’s been great to see so many visitors enjoying the health benefits of the National Park since lockdown measures eased, the coronavirus pandemic has increased costs and reduced the income we expect to receive from our visitor services, such as information centres and Brockhole.
“During the past few months, we’ve been doing everything possible to minimise the impact of our situation on our services and people. We have been talking to our staff about the challenges we’re facing, including asking for efficiency ideas and voluntary actions, to help make the savings needed. It’s been clear just how committed and passionate our people are, and I thank everyone for their support during this time.
“However, in order to close the gap on our £1.2m deficit and ensure a more sustainable future in looking after the National Park, unfortunately we are left with no alternative than to make some roles redundant and create a leaner, more flexible structure. We will now begin a genuine consultation and are encouraging all of our staff to take part in helping us to shape the Authority’s future.
“At the heart of the proposals are our priorities for managing the National Park to 2030, which were refreshed in our organisational strategy earlier this year. These include: a sharper focus on climate change, ambitious scale nature recovery, supporting the future of farming and sustainable smarter travel, to be delivered with the Lake District National Park Partnership. We remain committed to our vision for the Lake District and our statutory work to protect, conserve and enhance this special place underpins every decision we take.
“The pandemic has been an extraordinary time for the whole country and the Authority has been playing an active part in the multi-agency response across Cumbria and the National Park. We will continue to work with partners, volunteers and our communities, supporting the nation’s health and wellbeing as we move towards recovery.
“I understand how difficult this process will be for some and we will support our staff through this period of change. I’m confident that, together, we will create an organisation that will be flexible enough to manage the National Park’s future challenges and many opportunities, for the benefit of everyone.”
The staff consultation will run to mid-October, followed by an adjustment and transition period ahead of the new structure beginning in April 2021.
How the Authority could look
The proposals currently include:
- Continued high quality provision of our statutory services including: planning, National Park management plan and access management
- A renewed focus on our seven key priorities: net zero carbon Lake District, nature recovery, future of farming, landscape culture and beauty, smarter travel, affordable housing and a park for all, along with our newer eighth priority relating to Covid-19 Recovery for the Park
- Funding the strategy through a combination of: National Park Grant, commercial operations, external funding and greater partnership working
- Ensuring we have the appropriate mix of staff posts, grades and skills working in an agile, flexible way to meet our new challenges
- Improving efficiencies in our visitor services
- Merging strategy and park management services to create a new, more efficiently aligned operation
- Reducing the scale of support services and management overheads in the Authority, whilst ensuring essential functions can be maintained.
- The Lake District National Park Authority’s visitor services, such as information centres, directly support and enhance the National Park experience for around 900,000 visitors every year
- These include: the Lake District National Park Visitor Centre: Brockhole, Coniston Boating Centre, car parks, toilets and visitor information centres at Keswick, Bowness and Ullswater
- Income from our visitor services in 2020/21 is forecast to be £3.8M. This income is in addition to our £5.5m annual grant from government and is a vital part of our overall funding, enabling us to carry out practical work to look after the National Park
- Although we have now successfully reopened all our operations following the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, as with many businesses, the disruption to our trading and income on which we rely each year, has become less certain.
- In March 2020, the Authority agreed a new Organisational Strategy, based on the findings of the State of the Park Report 2018 and the Landscapes Review 2019
- This new strategy set out seven key priorities for how our organisation will manage the Lake District during the next ten years. In setting this strategy, we intended to undertake a detailed review of our organisation to ensure that we can deliver it as effectively as possible
- The strategy and priorities were further reviewed in June 2020, and as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, an eighth priority was added relating to the recovery of the Park and identifying the need for wider structural change.